One Woman's Tale of Dying to Give Birth

photo by Lynsey Addario/VII Network for Time

It’s reasonable to assume that, in this day and age of technological advances and common knowledge about good health, maternal mortality rates should be next to nil. But even in the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, it’s up at 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births (in 2006), an increase from 1997 when it was 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births (according to Amnensty International’s recent report Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA). We fall behind 40 other countries, almost all industrialized nations! So imagine how dire the situation is in developing countries. In this week’s issue of Time Magazine, there’s a horrific photo essay of one woman’s quick journey from pregnancy to death in Sierra Leone, where an overwhelming 1,033 women die for every 100,000 live births — that’s one of the highest death rates in the world. Add it all up, and every day one woman per minute dies while giving birth or soon after. What makes this even more tragic is the fact that these deaths are almost always preventable.

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  1. I gathered my courage to look at the photo essay of Mamma, the mother who died in childbirth at just 18 years of age. It brought me to tears. She leaves 3 small children, a set of twins who must be breastfed, or they will die and a toddler, to fate.

    The most telling picture, in my mind, is the one, after the second baby is finally born, where Mamma is sitting up, eyes open, alive and conscious, the floor soaked in blood. Maybe she thought she was free and clear. He hope must have soared. Her babies lived. She was dead of blood loss only an hour and a half later.

    What a tragedy.

  2. We also need to say that nearly ALL the women who die in childbirth in the USA have either NO Health care insurance or substandard insurance.

    I had a horrific childbirth with my first child. Fifty Three hours of labor, 3 plus hours of pushing, blood pressure drops, loss of consciousness, HOWEVER, I was in a good, city hospital, with an Operating Room only a few feet away, and the insurance to pay for the procedure. After finally admitting defeat (and images of my baby’s head repeatedly ramming into my pubic bone with NO hope of exit) I consented to a Surgical Birth and my child was delivered safely. Both Mama and Baby were OK after fluids and some heavy duty pain meds for Mama.

    If I had been in a less well run, state funded hospital, I have NO idea if my daughter and I would have lived.

    There is NO reason why the USA has this many a year die in childbirth. No reason except lack of access to good health care.

    We also have one of the worst INFANT mortality rates in “Industrial” Nations. No reason for that, either.

  3. Tell that to the friends and families of the 13 women who die *about every week* in one of the richest countries in the world.

  4. By my maths, 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births results in a mortality rate of 0.013%, which is not too far off nil. Not too bad when you consider the concurrent health of the mothers.

    Which of course is not to take away from the higher and alarming morbidity rates in the US published by the WHO in the linked article, but the number of deaths quoted are a little sensationalist.

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